I can’t breathe – a rallying cry

“I can’t breathe” is an appropriate rallying cry since this is the second time in the past few years where an African-American man has been choked by a police officer as he forwarned them “I can’t breathe.” George Floyd said the same words as Eric Garner did before he was choked to death in 2014 by police.

A black EMT named Breonna Taylor is killed in her own home when the police barges in during a raid in the middle of the night and finding nothing for her death. A black jogger named Ahmaud Arbery is chased down and killed by white vigilantes. And, Christian Cooper, fortunately is alive, but a white woman called the police on him saying a black man is threatening to kill her because she did not like him asking her to leash her dog in the park, where the signs clearly ask you to do so.

A few years ago a black twelve year old boy named Tamir Rice is gunned down by a police officer within two seconds for holding a toy gun, while a 65 year old white man is talked out of his rifle after one hour of conversation. Why the different procedures with a real gun versus a toy gun? With a man versus a little boy?

Floyd, Arbery, Taylor, and Cooper are the names that made national headlines, but sadly they are not alone. They join the ranks of names like Rice, Garner, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland and Trayvon Martin and others. There are too many black men and women being killed, in general, but at the hands of law enforcement or vigilantes. Martin was killed by a vigilante watch dog who was told by police dispatchers to NOT follow the suspect. He did and Martin is dead. And, there are too many black people being jailed for the same crimes relative to whites and too many go to jail because of building, unpaid court fees. This is the new Jim Crow.

As a white man, I can go pretty much anywhere in America. I do not have to be dressed to the nines. But, a black man in his Sunday best does not have the same privilege. Further, when stopped by the police, he (or she) must be extra careful thinking if he (or she) is not, it may be the last thing he (or she) does on this earth. Think about that.

“I can’t breathe.” We must be better than this. I am proud of someone like Daryl Davis, a black man who has talked over 200 KKK members out of their robes. He did it by talking with them, asking questions and listening. Then, he asked a few more questions. Ironically, as I wrote this I was watching a movie about the true story on school integration in Durham, NC called “Best of Enemies,” which highlighted the unusual friendship that developed by a black woman named Ann Atwater and a white man named C.E. Ellis, who happened to lead the local KKK chapter. She gave the eulogy at his funeral thirty-five years later.

We must tell our politicians we cannot breathe, en masse. And, it must include whites calling out this injustice as well – when leaders fail to do so, citizens must be the loud voice. I call on people to write, call and visit their legislators. We must have them speak out against hate speech. We must have them demand police to police poor actions by their members and remedy bad behavior through training or prosecution. The police union must act like the pilot’s union and pursue to the nth degree why someone was killed, as the pilots do investigating a plane crash. I know the police have a hard and dangerous job, but it will be made easier if they earn the public’s trust and recruit and screen, investigate, learn, prosecute when needed and train their officers to handle these tough situations.

That is what this old white man thinks. I am not alone, as per the link to an article by the Mind of Brosephus. America, let’s get with it.

https://mindofbrosephus.wordpress.com/2020/05/28/a-change-will-come/

What I care about – a note received

I shared that my local newspaper published my letter to the editor whose theme was “Listen to the truthtellers.” I included the letter in a recent post. Today, I received a very gracious letter from someone I do not know thanking me for my letter and “taking a stand and for expressing my views publicly.”

Attached to the letter was a summary prepared by John Pavlovitz (see link below) entitled “What I care about.” I thought I would share that summary below:

“I care that families are being separated.
I care that medical bills are bankrupting people.
I care that we’re drowning in guns and daily shootings.
I care that we’re talking about an asinine multi-billion border wall that won’t solve a crisis, even if there were one – and there isn’t one.
I care that our climate is changing and our planet is warming and our environment being degraded ad we have politicians who see science as an adversary.
I care that this Administration solicited and welcomed foreign interference in a Presidential election.
I care that voter suppression and gerrymandering are making it almost impossible for poor people and people of color to be heard and represented.
I care that racists march without hoods now, that elementary school teachers dress up like border walls, that wrestling coaches cut off a man’s dreadlocks in public.
I care that our President is mentally unfit to lead, and that he is buffeted by a group of professional enablers who know he is unfit and defend him anyway.
I care that every single day brings new legislative attacks on people who are already pushed to the brink.
I care that we have accused predators in the White House and on the Supreme Court.
I care that Muslims are caricatured into terrorists, migrants into advancing hordes, and LGBTQ people into imminent threats, by our elected leaders.
I care about families and sick people and underpaid teachers and hungry kids and unpaid Federal workers and transgendered teenagers – and the millions of beautiful, vibrant, disparate human beings who are daily endangered by the leadership of this country.

That’s what I care about.”

This list boils down many concerns to one piece of paper. It is worth the read and reaction. Let me know your thoughts.

Note: At the bottom of the summary is a quote from Neil Carter, “Why are we voting into office men who don’t even accept basic principles of biology, geology, immunology, and astronomy, and who believe we don’t have to preserve our planet’s natural resources.”

The weblink to Pavlovitz’s blog is as follows:

https://johnpavlovitz.com/

Here, there and everywhere

A lesser known Beatles’ song penned by Lennon/ McCartney was on the Revolver album – “Here, there and everywhere.” Using this song as a title to a potpourri post seemed appropriate. In no particular order:

A stark difference in the reactions to briefings that Russia is continuing to meddle in our elections was provided this week. Senator Bernie Sanders told Putin to back off, while the president of the United States fired the acting director of the Department of National Intelligence. Former Senator John McCain said in an editorial after Trump’s kowtowing to Trump in Helsinki, that he never thought he would witness a US president taking the word of a Russian leader over that of his own intelligence people. He still is. I have shared with multiple senators for many months that we have a national security risk in the White House. His name is Donald Trump.

Wells Fargo was fined $3 billion for their actions that led to the fraudulent creation of accounts and the failure to address these issues. They had been fined hundreds of millions earlier, but they still did not realize the severity of their screw up. Something this big is traceable to the top, whether it is explicit or implicit. Implicit means they created an environment that tolerated such bad behavior.

After yet another hate inspired mass shooting, this time in Germany, it troubles me that our leaders here are not condemning this in the harshest terms as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has done. Bigotry has to be carefully taught, so the only way to teach its counterpart is to condemn bigotry again and again as wrong. Our president fails to understand this point.

On the good side, the Taliban, Afghani and US negotiators are headed for an agreement which may end hostilities and allow for the exit of more US troops. Mistrust on all sides abounds, but let’s wish for a tangible and sustainable agreement.

Finally, from mythology, people who got too close to Medusa were either shot by arrow or turned into stone. US Attorney General is realizing now he has gotten to close to Medusa damaging his reputation. So, unless he leaves the building, he will end up being shot by the proverbial arrow or turned to proverbial stone. I guess the snakes are hiding in the combover.

Have a great rest of your weekend.

Those imperfect candidates

The search for nirvana, whether it is the perfect partner, job, setting, workout, dinner, vacation, etc. is an endless search. There is no such thing. The same goes for presidential candidates, regardless of party, country, state, locality, etc. And sadly, the better candidates get tainted once they have been elected as they make compromises and decisions which you may not like. Or, maybe when looked back on with a different context, those decisions look foolish.

I have been watching the circular firing squad of the Democratic party candidates for several months. I see more fanatical followers of candidates use a scorched earth mindset to destroy the candidates that are not their favorite. I witnessed this in 2016, when some Bernie Sanders were so adamantly against an imperfect Hillary Clinton, they could not bring themselves to vote for her. The current US president used this ammunition to create even more distaste and get those voters to stay home, vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or even vote for him as a change agent. It worked as he needed less than 100,000 voters spread among three states to win.

Every Democratic candidate has good selling points. And, every Democrat candidate has faults. I will not belabor either one of these lists, as my purpose is not to analyze the veracity of one or the other here. I will save that for a future post, when the slate gets more manageable. I will add every Democrat candidate has a better moral and ethical compass than that of the incumbent president. Conservative writer David Brooks noted that Trump does not seem to be able to show empathy. Almost every situation is exploited to elevate himself. Yet, in so doing, he reveals a very shallow and egomaniacal person. At times he reveals his corrupt nature.

Yes, I want the next president to focus on climate change, healthcare, career training for new and emerging jobs, better gun governance, etc. Yes, I would like them to deal with the debt and deficit. Yes, I would like them to restore America’s reputation as a trusted, fair and reasonable global partner. But, I would like my president to represent our better angels, not our worst demons. The current one does not. Issues are used to divide, not galvanize. I want a president to shine a spotlight on poor behavior, not condone it or discount it.

So, as people look for perfect candidates, remember this biblical example. We had only one perfect person walk the earth – and we killed him. Let’s not kill the Democrat candidate in search for nirvana.

A few why moments the past decade

Since I speak often that we need to ask more why questions, as well as a few more what, how, and when questions, permit me to ask a few why questions about the past decade.

Why would Prince Andrew think it was a good idea for him to visit a known pedophile’s house and be photographed with teen girls he is accused of having sex with?

Why do people still not find it a national security concern when a US president bends over backwards to support various Russian narratives and running shadow diplomacy?

Why do mass shootings continue at such a rampant rate in the US and no tangible action is taken to address these and everyday shootings?

Why do the kids (such as Greta Thunberg, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, eg) understand our climate change and gun problems better than many adults?

Why are two of the heroes of the decade female – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who led to new gun laws in one week after mass shooting and the 16 year old climate activist, Thunberg?

Why have people allowed the media to be labeled around the world as enemies of the people by so-called leaders not known for truth – Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro, Duterte, Xi, Johnson, Erdogan, et al?

Why are we not actively condemning hate groups for domestic terrorism – this is not right?

Why is the current White House trying to solve our growing poverty problem by kicking people off their healthcare and food stamps, and defanging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau designed to punish predatory lending?

Why is there not a bigger outcry for screwing over our Kurdish allies who fought our enemies?

Why is the Hong Kong story being covered far more than China’s abduction and brainwashing of Muslim and other religious groups within concentration camps?

There are so many more why questions than I have space. Please add a few of yours.

The majority of the people want better gun governance

From an article called “Polls find Americans mostly are supportive of stricter laws on guns” by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughn of the Raleigh News and Observer, please note the following cited survey results. Note these results have been fact checked by the paper’s Fact Checking Project.

– Gallup’s poll from August, 2019 noted “61% would support a ban on semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles.”

– The Civitas Institute (a conservative policy group) poll from September, 2019 showed “58% of respondents saying gun laws were not strict enough.” Note of the Civitas poll respondents, “48% either owned a gun or had someone in their home who owned a gun.”

– A Quinnipac University poll from May, 2019 showed “61% of Americans support stricter gun laws. The same poll showed 94% of Americans support required background checks for gun buyers. And, 77% of those polled support ‘requiring individuals to obtain a license before being able to purchase a gun.'”

– In 2017, Politifact Wisconsin “found multiple previous polls citing support for background checks ranging from 84% to 94%.”

The numbers 58% and 61% are meaningful, but let’s focus on the 94% (or even 84% to 94%) of respondents who want required background checks and the 77% who want a license before hand.

These are consequential majorities. Earlier this week, the Houston Chief of Police challenged his two Texas Senators (Ted Cruz and John Cornyn) and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to act after yet another police officer was killed.

The NRA has spoken. Now, we need to set their ardent, sales focused rhetoric aside and act sensibly. Just the two items highlighted above will help – background checks and pre-buy licensing. No loopholes. Cars require ownership and driving licenses to operate. Yet, they are not designed to kill.

I am long-ago tired of the standard “thoughts and prayers” line offered by legislators followed by “now is not the time to discuss changes.” Since people are dying everyday by suicide and other reasons, waiting for a time with no deaths will not happen. Further, the mass shootings of more than a few victims are happening with alarming frequency.

To be brutally frank, Democrats should push this issue to the nth degree. Maybe, the Senate and president will act. It matters not who pats themselves on the back – JUST DO SOMETHING!

Yet another road rage shooting

On today’s local midday news, we learned of yet another road rage shooting. Call me crazy, but a human life is much more valuable than an argument over right of way or a simple mistake in judgement while driving. So, the other person screwed up and you took his or her life?

Help me understand this? One thing I do know, if a gun was not present, that other driver would still be alive. And, the shooter would not be headed to jail. Lives are changed when a gun is present.

A man who killed the husband of a woman who parked in a disabled person parking spot was convicted of manslaughter and is in jail. He was right that the woman should not have parked there. But, by starting an argument, her bigger husband, who emerged from the store, took offense and pushed him to the ground. The man on the ground shot him. Should a person die over a lapse in judgment? The one thing I do know is if a gun was not present, the shooter may not have been so emboldened and certainly would not have killed someone.

The Second amendment advocate is only partly right and mostly wrong when he argues “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Actually, without the gun, arguments may not be started or would end up in a fist fight. So, the more accurate quote is “People with access to a gun, kill people.”

More often than not, the person getting killed is the shooter. By far, the majority of gun deaths are suicide. We spend too much time focusing on mass shootings, when the far more common gun death happens everyday.

Background checks on all purchases with as accurate a data base that can be compiled are key. Elongated waiting periods are key. Red flag laws are key. Just these three measures, may reduce suicides. Initial and recurring training on safety will help with accidental shootings.

Nothing has been done since the last mass shooting. Now is not the time is a stalling technique and it works. So, I argue now is the time and the focus should be on the daily shootings.

Our children deserve better

Two time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof wrote an editorial earlier this week in The New York Times called “Our children deserve better.” It is a clarion call to our nation showing the plight of kids in America.

Here are a few quotes to frame the issue:

“UNICEF says America ranks No. 37 among countries in well-being of children, and Save the Children puts the United States at No. 36. European countries dominate the top places.

American infants at last count were 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than children in other advanced countries, according to an article last year in the journal Health Affairs. We would save the lives of 20,000 American children each year if we could just achieve the same child mortality rates as the rest of the rich world.”

“Half a million American kids also suffer lead poisoning each year, and the youth suicide rate is at its highest level on record….The Census Bureau reported this week that the number of uninsured children increased by 425,000 last year.”

These are different views and sources of the threats to US children that note we have a problem. Another source I read a couple of years ago noted America has a much higher maternal mortality rate at child birth than other civilized countries, which further endangers children as well as the mothers.

Yet, these issues are not being discussed in the halls of government. We have a poverty problem in our country with too many living in or just above poverty levels. We have not expanded Medicaid in fifteen states whose numbers are worse than these national numbers per capita. We have not addressed our national water crisis which has a Flint, MI like exposure to lead in too many cities and a volume of available fresh water issue in other places. We have not invested as we should to diminish crime and provide more opportunities for jobs in disenfranchised areas. There are several pockets of success that can be emulated in more cities.

We also need to address better gun governance, especially with the number one gun death cause by far being suicide and a non-inconsequential accidental gun death rate. And, we have not dealt with the continuing and rising exposure to technology and artificial intelligence which have taken and will take even more jobs in the future. Finally, there is that climate change thing we need to deal with.

These are real problems. And, they will get worse. Data driven analysis of causes and solutions are needed. They are both multi-faceted. Investing more now, will save huge amounts later. This is not just an urban issue, it is rural one as well. The opioid crisis is rampant in these impoverished rural areas, for example.

None of the solutions will fit on a bumper sticker. And, political attempts to oversimplify issues should be questioned. Here is an easy contradiction to spot – if people believe gun deaths are a mental health issue, then why the effort to eliminate or not expand mental health benefits?

Please make your legislators aware of these issues and ask pointed questions. These questions deserve answers, not bumper sticker slogans. These concerns deserve to be talked about, studied and acted upon.

And the band played on – letter to the editor

My local newspaper printed my letter to the editor based on the theme of a recent post. Please feel free to adapt and use it, if you agree with the concept.

****************

I feel like citing the song lyric “and the band played on” in reference to elected leaders ignoring problems which will only get worse. On climate change, environmental degradation, increasing US debt, aging infrastructure, and insufficient gun governance, we have ticking time bombs. The kids get what is needed on climate change, environment and guns. But, debt and infrastructure must also be dealt with. And, not addressing the former makes the latter harder.

These are the questions we must be asking our politicians. If they are evasive or give poor answers, do not vote for them. We don’t need a wall. We need safe bridges and railways.

 

After his death, a second amendment supporter, leaves a message on gun violence

The following posthumous editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer on August 6, 2019. It speaks for itself.

“Larry Swenberg died of ALS this spring, a few months before gunmen killed 29 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Swenberg, a retired doctor of veterinary medicine in Durham, was a gun owner and avid hunter, but he was horrified at mass shootings inflicted by assault-style weapons. His wife, Gwen, sent us this op-ed from her husband last week, before Dayton and El Paso. One of his last wishes, she said, was to leave a message for his fellow Second Amendment supporters — and all of us.:

I am a 73 year-old retired doctor of veterinary medicine and a political independent who is neither a politician nor a Washington insider, but a citizen pleading to stop the carnage of assault weapons. I am a former hunter, recreational shooter, current gun owner, supporter of the Second Amendment, but never an NRA contributor.
In my plea for sanity, I prioritize assault weapons because of their availability and their ability to produce mass carnage. In the wake of a mass shooting in New Zealand committed with an assault weapon, it took five days for the country to ban the weapon. Our country’s ban expired in 2004, and the gun lobby and the NRA has spent millions to buy its continued extinction.

If your goal is to kill the greatest number in the shortest time, this is the weapon of choice. Many cry foul here, saying it is the shooter, not the weapon that is the problem. If you honestly prioritize human life over personal desire, then you must acknowledge the risk of assault weapons in the wrong hands as responsible for oft repeated slaughter of the innocent.

The NRA’s seven-million-dollar senator, Richard Burr of North Carolina, blithely maintains a ban would infringe on Second Amendment personal freedom. Are speed limits a similar infringement? This attitude reflects a disconnect which is mind numbing. This character flaw is common among politicians and America’s gun-owning public. People who fail to see blood on their hands for their inaction do so because guilt for their acts of omission is simply not a quality of their character.

The High Court has affirmed the congressional right to regulate firearms. Therefore the belief that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own an assault rifle is wrong. If politicians past and present had any integrity and not just self-interest, poor judgment or a lack of conscience, we would not have the cumulative carnage of assault weapons we presently have. Had Congress recognized its sin of omission and sought penance through action, we would not have the empty solace of our collective thoughts and prayers.

Think about this when you sit in a church pew, go to work, or enjoy hobbies: we all have the blood of omission on our hands, despite those who live in denial. So long as assault weapons are available publicly, the pathologically demented will use them to massacre the most numbers in the shortest time.

An author whose name I don’t recall wrote a person’s god is that to which ultimate allegiance is given – money, fame, power, etc. if you prioritize the petty position of a firearms over public safety, then your god is a gun no matter how many hours you sit in a church or bow to Mecca. You then are a first order hypocrite and must simply own this fact. It is a tragedy some people feel a felony must be committed to protect the public’s safety.

An assault weapons ban will not solve America’s gun violence but it would stop mass carnage in minimal time. Demand nothing less of Congress and the White House.”